The unique schedule created by the Patriots 38-24 win over the Colts on Thursday Night Football brought a twist to New England’s traditional day-after-game conference call.
Not only did head coach Bill Belichick speak with reporters Friday morning, but he was also joined by offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels as well as linebackers coach and defensive playcaller Brian Flores.
Less than 12 hours after Belichick’s team improved to 3-2 on the season, the coach talked about the chance that both players and coaches now have to catch their proverbial breath after two games in five days -- part of three games in 12 days – following up the rush that comes with playing on Thursday night.
“This Thursday game to a Sunday game, it’s just not the same,” Belichick began. “We’ve had two games in five days. Everybody is tired. Everybody worked hard the last five days and then played a late night game. Honestly it takes you a couple days to get your feet back on the ground after a game like that. Just because you put so much into it in the Monday to Thursday, there’s no chance at all after the (previous) game to have any kind of catch your breath. You get right off one treadmill and jump onto another one and it’s already going pretty fast. So it definitely takes a couple days I think for everybody to kind of unwind and get your feet back under you and catch your breath. And then by that time it’s Sunday and now you are starting to get ready for Kansas City. It’s not exactly like having, like these two days today and tomorrow are feeling like normal after a game. A lot’s been packed into the last five days.”
Belichick did praise his team for what it packed into those five days in order to prepare for and then defeat Indy. His players have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off to recover.
“I thought they handled it well last week. I thought the short amount of time we had to prepare I thought our players focused and did a good job on it,” Belichick said. “Were we as well prepared as we would have been on a Sunday game? No. Was Indianapolis? No. So it is what it is. It’s a short week. Very compressed time to prepare. There are some things that came up in the game probably for both sides that had it been a little bit of a different week might have been executed better. But it’s the same for both teams. It is what it is. You just go ahead and roll with it. I think those games come along once a year. Every team has one. You get through it and you move on. That’s where we are at right now.”
Beyond Belichick’s thoughts on the short week and recovering from it, here are some of the other takeaways from Friday morning’s day-after-game conference calls.
Edelman “allows us to do things offensively”: Wide receiver Julian Edelman returned from his four-game NFL suspension and a year missed to a torn ACL to make an instant impact in Thursday night’s win over the Colts. The slot weapon caught Tom Brady’s opening pass of the game, one of his three receptions on the Patriots 75-yard drive to an opening touchdown.
Though things slowed a bit for Edelman from there and he did have a key third-down drop on the following possession, McDaniels made it clear that everyone involved was happy to have JE11 back in the mix.
“Julian, he’s played in our offense, in this system with our quarterback for a long time,” McDaniels said. “So, the strengths that he possesses and the things that he does well certainly allow us to do some things offensively. When we do them well, obviously it helps us move the ball and score points and try to get into a good rhythm. We always try to get into a good rhythm regardless of who we are throwing it to. But our overall execution yesterday…he helped us at the beginning and certainly made some plays throughout, but I’d say there’s plenty of things we need to improve on. But it’s good to have him back.”
Tale of two defensive halves: At halftime on Thursday night the Patriots led 24-3. Indy had just eight first downs and 141 total yards. But as Andrew Luck and Co. turned on the gas for an attempted comeback in the second half, New England’s defense found itself giving up more plays. At one point that turned the game into a one-score contest.
Afterwards, a number of defenders spoke about the failure to execute when Indy went into more of a “two-minute” mode. Flores talked about the need to adjust better in that situation, among the other things New England must work to clean up on defense after allowing 439 yards of offense.
“Like anything that’s starts in the practice field and the film room,” Flores said. “Obviously we’ve taken a look at it and just kind of get an understanding of the mistakes we made and some of the things we can do better. They have a good quarterback and they made a couple of plays there. But at the same time we could have played some of those things better. We’ll work to improve those areas, two-minute, but not just that, two-minute, third down, red zone, there is so much we can improve on. Obviously it starts with coaching, putting our guys in good position to make plays and we’ll continue to work to do that.”
“It’s always a goal to be consistent all the way throughout the game. But it’s like what I tell our players, there’s never been a perfect game played of football. That was the case last night. We didn’t play as well in the second half. We just have to do a much better job.”
Michel has “always run hard”: Just a few days after notching his first career 100-yard game, first-round rookie running back Sony Michel churned out another 98 yards on 18 carries. That production included a 34-yard touchdown run to close the door on the Colts. While there were other plays that probably could have been more productive, McDaniels emphasized the confidence he has in his young budding ball carrier.
“Sony works hard. Practices hard. He really does a good job,” McDaniels said. “He’s really attentive in meetings. He wants to learn. He has a great approach to his preparation. He’s got really good people in his room to look at and model that part of his professionalism after. James White is a great example. James Develin, Rex Burkhead, we’ve had a number of guys in here that have helped show him how to do it right. I think he’s really doing a good job of taking note of that.
“He’s always run hard. And we liked his vision when he came out. Look he’s only played four games in pro football. He missed all of the preseason. He just works hard to try to get better and we’re trying to work with him to do that. He’s certainly helped us and hopefully will continue to improve as we go forward.
“I’ve always felt good about him running the ball.
“He’s certainly contributed significantly here in the first four or five games.”